Thursday, October 12, 2006
Keane - Under the Iron Sea: Reviewed
Veteran readers of the previous incarnation of this blog will know that I enjoyed Keane’s debut album, Hopes and Fears. Fortunately it did well enough for them to have a second album, Under the Iron Sea.
The cover art - by Finnish artist Sanna Annukka - is cute and funky. You will have to buy the CD to fully appreciate it since it folds out to 6 panels in total. Starting at the surface of the iron sea is a mixture of good and bad equine waves. Underneath is a fairytale seascape featuring among other creatures a giant octopus, a whale, and a squirrel! Visit their website or Annukka's to get a taste of it.
Atlantic sets the tone, evoking the wash and rhythm of the sea with soaring, sweeping vocals and piano. Beautiful, it’s my favourite track.
Is it any wonder? opens with a heavy, U2esque bass before mellowing into piano. This album overall has a greater emphasis on the bass. Compared with their self-titled debut album, which was built around the piano/synth, this has a more of a rock feel to it.
Nothing in my way, is a piano based ballad. Lead vocalist Tom Chaplin has either improved his breathing technique or his gasps for air at the end of each line have been produced out – or a combination of both. His breathing was clearly audible on the softer or more passionately sung tracks from the previous album.
Leaving so soon? and A bad dream both feature longer notes yet they contrast nicely with each other. The first is a strong song of defiance and independence while the latter is a ballad about exactly the opposite sentiment. A bad dream has particularly lovely soaring and layering.
Hamburg song has an organ rather than a piano sound and feels more like a hymm. It isn’t clear why it has this title. Soulful, but depressing if you’re already sad, it’s feelings laid bare.
Track 7, Put it behind you ends at about 3:30, as a song but appears to have a secret piece within it. An atmospheric bass, synth and strings instrumental sweeps in then fades out 3 minutes later - another favourite for me.
Crystal Ball is an upbeat track though lyrically or musically not one of their strongest. The album title is derived from a line in this song.
There are other tracks. The first album was less than 50 minutes and this is another shorty at just over 50 minutes. Quality not quantity. I have not felt the compulsion to skip any tracks except Hamburg song and only when I was feeling blue.
Overall there’s a nice balance of light and shade, ballads and upbeat tracks. The heavier use of bass, more complex vocals, and stronger, tighter production works well. It took a few listens but it has grown on me. I recommend it to anyone who enjoyed their first album.
Websites of the Day
Keane's Official Website
Sanna Annukka's portfolio, which includes beautiful art for all the the singles from Under the Iron Sea